Luis Paula is a middle infielder and right handed pitcher at McLeansville (N.C.) Northern Guilford. The 6-3, 183-pound hurler also competes with the Dirtbags travel team and is a switch hitter at the plate. Paula is currently ranked 7th in his high school class academically. Perfect Game has him on their High Follow listing in the top 1,000 prospects for the 2011 class while Impact Baseball rates him as the No. 21 prospect in the state of North Carolina. Paula's junior season numbers included a 6-1 record on the mound with 67 strikeouts in 47 innings, and a .431 battling average with 11 doubles and five home runs.
"I want to say it was in the fall of my junior year when I was playing in a tournament at the USA Baseball facility when they saw me," Paula stated about the beginning of his recruitment by the North Carolina coaching staff. "I started talking with them more when I started playing in the spring with the Dirtbags after school ball. I told them that I was not ready to commit until after my high school season."
Playing two ways was a very important consideration for Paula. "At first North Carolina and I talked about playing in the infield," he said. "As long as I can hit the ball I will be able to play in the infield. If I am not hitting I will have to be a pitcher. We talked about maybe playing a couple of innings in the infield and then finish the game or being a relief pitcher some days and see how that goes. They just told me that after a couple of years you can realize that one position can be stronger than the other so if I am playing the infield and hitting really well I will turn out to be an infielder. If I am not hitting well I probably will focus on pitching."
Paula committed to UNC over offers from NC State, East Carolina and UNC-Greensboro.
"My parents and I sat down and talked about this," Paula stated of his decision-making process. "We liked all the schools that offered and decided that North Carolina was the best because I felt that they gave me the best possibility to play as a two-way player to give me a chance to pitch or play in the infield - or wherever I wanted to play. That is why I decided on Carolina. Other schools wanted me just to pitch."
He added, "The coaching staff was the top reason why I committed to North Carolina. I really liked both Coach Jackson and Forbes; that is why I decided on Carolina, as well as the campus."
Playing in a competitive and prestigious league was also important to Paula. "I grew up around the ACC and have always liked the ACC," he said. "It is one of the best conferences and when Carolina offered me I realized they were a big time school with basketball, football and baseball."
It remains to be seen at which position Paula will end up at the next level, but he is certainly an intriguing prospect. He has had a huge growth spurt and has increased his development both in the field and on the mound. Paula is a switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate as well as being able to hit for average.
Defensively he has smooth footwork with good touch with the glove. He has great defensive instincts and covers a lot of ground. Not surprisingly he has a strong arm in the infield (or outfield).
Paula also has advanced baserunning skills to go along with 6.80 speed in the 60-yard dash and should be able to go from first to third easily on singles as well as having the capability of double-digit steals at the next level.
Paula has a low 90s fastball along with advanced feel for a nasty breaking slider. His off speed pitches can keep opposing batters off balance.
"One thing that comes to mind is in the improvements that he has made in the past three years," Northeast Guilford head coach David Lawing said. "It has not hurt him at all that he has gotten a lot bigger and stronger and has improved in all areas - in hitting, on defense and on the mound. He has increased his velocity and his pitching - not just velocity wise."
"I think pitching is his niche," Lawing elaborated. "For me he pitches and of course plays shortstop - I have never played him in the outfield but just shagging balls and stuff he has a heck of an arm from the outfield. He could play just about anywhere on the field.
"He has good speed on the bases and the thing about his baserunning is that he has great baserunning instincts. Just having something that you cannot teach but is instinctive on the bases -- and he runs them really well."
With the scouts gearing up for the upcoming 2011 Major League Draft, Paula received some preliminary interest. "I have not really talked with many of the scouts but I think that I have talked with one or two so far," Paula said. "Just a little conversation but not much about being drafted or anything like that."
However, Paula does know what range of draft pick it would take for him to consider listening to contract offers. "Personally if it was in the top ten rounds I would give it some thought," he elaborated. "If it was later than that then I just would go to Carolina."
Paula is a huge Yankees fan but stated that even that would not sway his attention with a late round flier.
The two-way player already has his sights on his personal and team goals for his arrival in Chapel Hill. "First I want to get a starting position or at least some playing time," he stated. "I want to play a lot and I hope that we go to the College World Series and win a championship."